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Legacy Healthcare CRM: Understanding Why It Needs to be Different

Given the unique challenges of healthcare, deciding what you do or do not need in your CRM can have profound ramifications on future capabilities.  My previous blog pointed out that the Legacy CRM systems that have been a mainstay in healthcare for decades are quite different from the Enterprise platforms that have become the norm.  Today, healthcare marketing and IT leaders are facing a series of big decisions:

  • Do they keep their current legacy CRM decision-engine or opt to build an enterprise CRM that serves the entire organization?
  • Can they retain some combination of both systems?
  • Should they try to duplicate some of the unique capabilities in-house?

As we continue to lay the foundation for making these decisions,  it’s critical you understand why legacy healthcare CRMs had to be different.


One-to-One Relationship Management

Just for review- CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.   The optimal form of Customer Relationship Management in any industry is a one-to-one interaction with a person that knows you.  In a perfect world, there would be a relationship manager for every patient who understands your complex health history (and that of your family), and they’d be available when you need them.  At those times when you are suddenly forced to make a healthcare decision they’d be there to guide you.  They would even proactively reach out if they thought you might be at risk for something that you weren’t aware of.   The critical element is recognizing an individual’s need at the time when it matters.

You might read this description and say “we already have this!”  and you’re probably right.  Primary care providers, clinical outreach, nurse triage, care managers, and population health all play critical roles in healthcare services.  Real people that know about us, are able to identify our unique need at a specific time and who will reach out proactively.  Unfortunately, these one-to-one interactions are generally reserved for a relatively small percentage of the total population who have been identified as having acute needs.  And today’s Enterprise CRMs have proven very good at facilitating these types of one-to-one case-based communications.

What about everyone else?  How do you identify need for someone who isn’t aware what their symptoms mean, or has only been into your ER and doesn’t have PCP?  What about someone who is new to town?  Who will reach out to them?


One-to-Many Relationship Management

While you can’t replace real human interaction, doctors, nurses and other care coordinators have limited bandwidth.  What do you do with all those people that (to use sales terms) are High or Mid-Funnel– i.e. don’t yet have acute needs, but might develop them?  This is traditionally the realm of marketing, but in the past healthcare marketing has had some real challenges.

Before healthcare CRM became popular, it was exceedingly difficult to prove marketing’s value.  As a result, healthcare marketers didn’t always get much respect.  Marketing was seen as a business expense.  Campaigns might include newspaper ads and billboards with one phone number promoting all events and seminars.  Phone calls to register might be written on paper (and hopefully captured later on spread sheets).   Direct marketing amounted to post cards sent to purchased mailing lists – and rarely differentiated patients versus prospects.  Demonstrating success was limited to the number of phone calls received (if the caller said they’d seen the ad), or the number of seats filled at an event, even if none of the attendees actually needed the service they were promoting.


The Best of Both Worlds

CRM for Healthcare was purpose-built to execute One-to-Many Marketing that looked and felt like a personalized One-to-One outreach.  This solved for specific issues that weighed heavily on hospital executives (and still do), and gave new legitimacy to marketing.  Predictive models and event triggers helped approximate need at a specific time when the consumer would most likely respond.  Demographics and patient history allowed for creating customized communications that felt more personal.  Ongoing uploads of encounter data allowed for a much more precise way of tracking results.


Areas of Overlap on Today’s Enterprise Platforms

To be clear, today’s Enterprise CRM platforms have extremely robust marketing capabilities with highly evolved targeting and tracking tools.  They offer state-of-the-art marketing automation and online performance metrics.  And they continue to develop (or acquire) impressive health-care specific tools, data models and optimizations.  These advances show great promise for boundless uses within the hospital enterprise. Right now they seem especially strong in two areas of communications:

  • One-to-one communications – for areas such as population health, patient-outreach, call center, etc.
  • Inbound digital marketing – such as SEO/SEM/SMM

Leveraging your Resources:  Out-of-the-Box or Do-It-Yourself

Just having a Legacy CRM doesn’t create ROI.  If you do not leverage the tools it came with, it could look like a bad investment.   On the flip side, correctly using these tools can create very successful, quantifiable results that could show a real impact on the bottom line – and turn marketing from a business expense into a profit center.  Understanding that in a healthcare-specific environment, this can give a way to automate impactful relationship management communications that knows who the consumer is, how they are unique and can figure out when they need to hear from us, can be extremely powerful.

If you plan to create these capabilities in-house, be sure you understand what it is you need to build ahead of time- don’t get caught in the gap.  Artificial intelligence and automation that come with many modern CRMs can cover a lot of ground, but don’t expect an out-of-the-box transition from the pre-built risk models and event triggers that you may be familiar with.  Having a tool to create automated campaigns is not the same as knowing the exact right criteria to identify the precise moment to send that communication.  If you plan to build an Enterprise CRM that serves all areas of your organization and you’re not sure what you need, find a trusted partner who can help.

Thoughts on “Legacy Healthcare CRM: Understanding Why It Needs to be Different”

  1. Chris Restle Post author

    Thanks, Brian. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ll be continuing to dive deep into this topic over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Chris Restle, Senior Solutions Architect

Chris Restle has been one of the early pioneers in Healthcare CRM, working for the past 15 years as Principal CRM Strategy, Director of Strategic Innovation, and most recently was the Vice President Emerging Markets for Healthgrades. In his career, he has run client services, analytics, and data intake teams. He brings Perficient clients an exhaustive knowledge of the healthcare CRM market, campaign strategy, event-trigger design, and predictive modeling for planning and targeting.

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